Fast data access and analysis is key to competitive advantage

The Economist Intelligence Unit

Speed is of the essence. Executives who consider their company competitive in its ability to use data are also more likely to report the ability to access and leverage data quickly, according to The power of fast data, an Economist Intelligence Unit report, sponsored by the SAP® Services organisation. The research paper draws on two global surveys, one of 400 executives in September 2013 and another of 353 executives in April 2012, as well as in-depth interviews with experts and executives.

Responses to the two surveys are similar in many respects. However, the 2013 survey reveals eroded confidence in companies’ data-use abilities, which we attribute to growing pains and a clearer-eyed view of the challenges as executives delve deeper into the hard work of implementation. Only 40% of respondents to the 2013 survey consider their company’s ability to leverage data ‘industry leading’ or ‘competitive’, down from 50% in 2012, while slightly more call it ‘inadequate’ or ‘completely inadequate’. Fewer believe their company has processes in place to access data in a timely fashion (54%, down from 66% in 2012).

The more recent survey also shows that implementation concerns are shifting. While budget limitations remain the top challenge to timely analysis, fewer executives cite cost or budget as a primary obstacle (36%, down from 50%); more cite a lack of available or trained personnel (30%, up from 20%). Other key findings include:

• The data-savvy achieve speed and organisational depth. Respondents who say their companies are ‘industry-leading’ or ‘competitive’ in their ability to leverage data (40%, down from 50%) are more likely have quick access to data and provide it to all departments.

• But many companies struggle. Although the majority of respondents say their companies give all departments timely access to information (63% in 2013), less than half (48%) provide that access to all job functions and all international locations (45%) equally.

• Companies are benefiting from timely data analysis, but organisational and cultural obstacles persist. Nearly half (44% in 2013 vs 48% in 2012) of respondents cite faster and better decisions as a key benefit of timely data analysis. A lack of trained talent is a key obstacle (cited by 30%, up from 20% in 2012), and about a quarter of respondents (28% vs 26%) say their company’s culture does not yet support a data-driven enterprise.

The power of fast data is available free of charge at http://www.economistinsights.com/fast-data .

About the survey and methodology

The Economist Intelligence Unit surveys were carried out in September 2013 and April 2012. The 2013 survey polled 400 executives worldwide and the 2012 survey polled 353. were based in 57 countries, mainly in North America (29%), Asia-Pacific (29%) and Western Europe (27%). The respondents to both surveys were based primarily in North America (32% in 2013; 31% in 2012), Western Europe (26% and 27%) and Asia (29% and 26%). The remainder hailed from Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Of the total number of respondents, approximately half (46% and 52%) were C-level executives. About one-fifth (18% and 22%) represented companies with annual revenue exceeding US$10bn and slightly less than half (48% and 44%) represented companies with annual revenue of less than US$500m. Nearly half of respondents of both surveys identified themselves as functioning within the IT realm. Representatives from virtually every industry participated, with the largest percentages being drawn from technology, professional services, financial services and healthcare, manufacturing, and biotechnology companies.

About The Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit is the world leader in global business intelligence. It is the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, which publishes The Economist newspaper. As the world’s leading provider of country intelligence, The Economist Intelligence Unit helps executives make better business decisions by providing timely, reliable and impartial analysis on worldwide market trends and business strategies. More information about The Economist Intelligence Unit can be found at www.eiu.com  or follow us on www.twitter.com/theeiu .

SAP and all SAP logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of SAP AG in Germany and in several other countries. All other product and service names mentioned are the trademarks of their respective companies.

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